INTRODUCING THE “NEW” MANITOBA JONES TEAM

Manitoba’s Jones team is competing in the DEKALB SuperSpiel in Morris this weekend – no, not that Jones – the other Jones, the new Jones, the Jones of the future in Manitoba curling!

A win Saturday over Team JCR in Morris followed losses to Kristy Watling and Talyia Tober. That sets up a Sunday 3PM game against a highly regard young team from the USA skipped by Madison Bear.

When Kaitlyn Jones name popped up on the Abby Ackland team roster at the start of this season, there were some obvious questions.

Was she joining the team on one of those ‘birthright’ eligibilities? “No, I moved here. But I could have,” she says, explaining that she was born in Thompson and lived in Wabowden until she was about two years old.

Did she move here to join the team or did she join the team after she moved here? She explains she moved to Manitoba for non-curling reasons but knew Sara Oliver from the 2017 Canadian Juniors and Sara reached out to her, saying the team was looking for a skip.

Sweepers Sara Oliver (l) and Abby Ackland prepare to sweep a Kaitlyn Jones delivery during regional Scotties playoffs at Deer Lodge

And that answered the third question – who initiated Abby Ackland’s move to second on the team? “This was Abby’s team but she really didn’t want to skip anymore and they were looking for a leader who had ‘been there’,” Jones explained. “There have been no negatives at all in the transition.”

No question, Kaitlyn Jones has ‘been there’. She is a Saskatchewan Junior champion who moved to Nova Scotia, took over a provincial junior champion team, and won another junior title along with a Canadian and a World Championship.

Despite their youth, the entire team has credentials to match. Lead Sara Oliver has a World Championship medal of her own, at the World Mixed with Colin Kurz. Oliver, second Abby Ackland and third Robin Negovyn have all competed nationally twice as Manitoba junior champions – once, the three of them were together at the nationals.

The DEKALB SuperSpiel will be a tune-up event for eight of the 12 teams scheduled to compete in Carberry in the Manitoba Scotties in two weeks. Team K. Jones opens the DEKALB against one of them, Kristy Watling.

Looking forward to her first provincial Scotties, Jones simply said “I can’t wait – I’m so excited”.

“I’m excited to play all those teams. I’m not intimidated, there’s really no pressure. I just try to play the best I can every game,” she said, repeating an old but true maxim “to be the best, you have to beat the best” and then added “and this is the best province for that.”

In fairness to Kaitlyn Jones, it should be explained that this conversation took place before Jennifer Jones disqualified herself from the Manitoba Scotties by winning that Trials bonspiel in Saskatoon.

However the Manitoba Scotties field still includes Tracey Fleury, former champion Kristy McDonald out of competitive retirement and excited by the opportunity of one more Scotties, another former champion in Darcy Robertson, World Junior Champion Mackenzie Zacharias, plus a host of young teams on the verge of a break-through, including Beth Peterson, Kristy Watling, Shae Bevan and Meghan Walter.

There was another obvious question that demanded an answer. With the names Kaitlyn AND Jones being the names of two of the best to ever play the game (in or outside Manitoba) and with Colleen Jones being an equally legendary name in Nova Scotia where she came to Manitoba from, do the names put extra pressure on her as a young skip.

The answer belies her years. “There have been some great curlers named Jones. I’d like to be the next one,” she says simply!

She also acknowledges the important help they have had from Coach Howard Restall. “He knows the game and he knows the women’s game. With that experience he sees things I didn’t see and I really like his coaching style which is very much a ‘did you see’ style as opposed to a ‘you should have’ style,” the young skip says.

Excited about the month ahead, Kaitlyn Jones says “I know we can compete at a high level. All we have to do is play like we can.”

NEEPAWA’S URSEL TEAM WINS WESTMAN SCOTTIES BERTH

(November 22) Neepawa’s Terry Ursel team picked up the fourth Scotties berth available on the weekend, joining Kaitlyn Jones, Kritsy McDonald, and Jennifer Clark-Rouire’s team in winning invitations to compete in Carberry in mid-December.

Ursel (with Wanda Rainka, Kaya Hunter, Tracy Igonia, and fifth Chris Hamblin) won two out of three in Rivers against Alyssa Calvert, who is hoping to be a home team in the Carberry event.

Had it been a ‘total-points’ series, they would have needed an extra end as the two teams each scored 21 points in the three games. Calvert won game #2 9-6 while Ursel was a 7-5 and 8-7 winner. The teams were so closely matched that they were tied coming home in Game #3.

Team Calvert still has a chance to qualify as they will play Shae Bevan’s team for the fifth regional berth at a date & location yet to be determined. The 12th invitation for the Carberry championship will be awarded after the Morris bonspiel in early December.

(UPDATED 8PM: Saturday, Nov. 20) TEAM JCR JOINS JONES, MCDONALD IN EARNING SCOTTIES BERTHS … Kaitlyn and Jones are two well known Manitoba curling names – but two different people playing this week in Saskatoon. Kaitlyn Jones is a pretty well known name as well: a former Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia Junior champion AND Canadian & World junior champion.

Team Kaitlyn Jones

Now Kaitlyn Jones is set to make her mark at the Scotties level and she has made the first step by skipping her team (Robyn Njegovan, Abby Ackland, Sara Oliver) to an invitation to compete in Carberry at the Manitoba championship in mid-December.

Trailing 4-1 playing the fourth end, Jones had a draw for a three and a 4-4 tie. The momentum of the game shifted and after a series of singles, Jones had a hit for three on the eighth end. She rolled away but scored a pair to go up 7-6.

The Jones team controlled the final end, got two buried in the four foot and the game ended when Lisa McLeod (skipping the Jennifer Clark-Rouire entry) couldn’t make an in-off attempt to score at least one for tie. The final score was 9-6.

Team Kristy McDonald

A very well known Manitoba curling name, Kristy McDonald, will join the Jones team in Carberry. Returning to competition after some family time away, McDonald (Lisa Blixhavn, Lindsay Titheridge, Raunora Westcott) adds another former Manitoba Scotties champion skip to the Carberry roster.

McDonald led Shae Bevan 3-0 after two ends but gave up a three on the third when she missed a double kill attempt and left Bevan a draw for the three. McDonald led 5-4 after five ends and had a draw for a four on end #6 to go up 9-4. The final score was 10-5.

On the 5PM draw, the third Winnipeg regional entry into the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Carberry went to the Jennifer Clark-Rouire foursome, skipped by Lisa McLeod (with JCR, Kelsey Meger, Laurie Macdonell, Jolene Callum)

Team JCR, led by two but faced four with their final stone on the last end. Mcleod was certain of a tie after her throw but it was even better than that as Shae Bevan and her team scored only a single; a 4-3 victory for McLeod and her team.

In Rivers, Terry Ursel won game one of the best-of-three series 7-5 but Alyssa Calvert rebounded to win 9-6 in the second game. A third, deciding game will be played in Rivers at 10AM Sunday.

At a time yet to be determined, Shae Beavan’s foursome will play the loser in Rivers for the fifth berth available through regionals.

(November 19) FIVE SCOTTIES BERTHS AVAILABLE THIS WEEKEND … It is fair to suggest Tracey Fleury and Jennifer Jones and their teams would prefer a trip to Beijing over a trip to Carberry.

The top two favourites to win this year’s Manitoba’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts presented by Bayer will be playing in Saskatoon, beginning this weekend, in an attempt to win their way out of that trip to Carberry in mid-December.

If either wins Canada’s Olympic Curling Trials, formally knows the Canadian Curling Trials, they would be dropped out of the Manitoba championship as they would be unable to represent Manitoba at the National Scotties which ends just a few days ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Four other teams have also qualified for the Manitoba championship. These include Mackenzie Zacharias, Darcy Robertson, Beth Peterson, and  Kristy Watling.

That leaves five invitations to play in Carberry up for grabs this weekend in regional qualifying – and six teams want them.

In Winnipeg at the Deer Lodge, Jennifer Clark-Rouire, Shae Bevan, Kaitlyn Jones, and Kristy McDonald will play for three provincial berths. Jones play Clark-Rouire and McDonald plays Bevan at 9AM Saturday with the winners getting invitations. Then the two losers will play for the third invitation.

In Westman, Alyssa Calvert hopes to become a home-team in Carberry when she plays a best of three series with Terry Ursel (Neepawa). That happens in Rivers beginning at 10AM Saturday.

That makes four. The losers in Winnipeg and Westman will playoff for the fifth available entry into the Carberry championship.

After this weekend, the last entry into the Carberry Scotties will be announced following the DEKALB Bonspiel in Morris.

Of course, the small number of entries in regional playoffs does not indicate the strength of field of the provincial championships. In fact, the exact opposite – the strength of the Manitoba Scotties field probably explains the lack of regional entries.

There are seven Manitoba teams in the Canadian Team Ranking Systems’ Top 20. Team Canada’s Kerri Einarson, #5, is not eligible as she has pre-qualified for the national Scotties (unless she wins the Trials). Kaitlyn Jones, a former Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia Junior champion and also Canadian and World titleist, is ranked #15 in Canada but has yet to qualify for Carberry.

The other five are pre-qualified: Tracey Fleury (CTRS #1), Jennifer Jones (CTRS #2), Mackenzie Zacharias (CTRS #12), Kristy Watling (CTRS #14), and Beth Peterson (CTRS #15). Also pre-qualified, Darcy Robertson is ranked #35 on the CTRS list.

No question, the 12-team Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Carberry in mid-December will be one of the most competitive women’s curling events ever staged in Manitoba – great championship curling entertainment.

(November 16) GREAT PROGRESS IN PLANNING FOR CARBERRY SCOTTIES …. Carberry is one of the smallest, and perhaps is the smallest, community to ever host one of CurlManitoba’s arena championship curling events.

Curl Carberry is proud to be hosting the 2021 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts presented by Bayer

Rather than being a problem, however, committee chairman Rob Van Kommer says it is an opportunity – an opportunity to showcase the spirit of the community which he is proud to call home and an opportunity to boost community pride.

The Scotties Tournament of Hearts presented by Bayer will be played in the Carberry Community Centre December 14-19, 2021 with the full support of the Town of Carberry, the Rural Municipality of North Cypress, the Community Centre and the Curling Club.

“Our committee and our community have really taken hold of the challenge of hosting the Scotties. We’re making great progress,” Van Kommer said recently. “The business community has shown great support – our nine corporate boxes are ‘sold out’ and we have at least eight gold sponsors already; we had over 120 volunteers turn out for our shirt try-on night, and nearly half of our full event passes have been sold.”

Showing the eternal optimism of the Manitoba farmer, Van Kommer can even put a positive spin on the past year’s covid-isolation and the change of timing to December, due to the 2022 Olympic schedule.

‘I don’t think there is any doubt it helps us for the event to be earlier than usual,” he said. “People were isolating for so long that this event is going to be a great way for them to get out and see their friends from across the Manitoba curling community.”

The Carberry Community Centre is a multi-sport facility which includes the four sheet curling facility, a bowling alley, a gun club, an outdoor pool, and hockey arena. For the Scotties, the curling rink will be used as a yet-to-be named hospitality facility.

People worried about it being an ’old barn’ need not be concerned. The building benefited from regular upgrades over the years with new roof, new dressing rooms and new heaters all ensuring the comfort of both fans and curlers. There is also good experience in the arena as a curling arena as Carberry Curling club has staged its annual bonspiel in the arena ever since the clubs 100th anniversary (nearly 40 years).

While seating capacity in the arena is limited to 450 bleacher seats, the total capacity will be about 1,200 curlers and curling fans. (LINK to Carberry’s Ticket Sales site) One of the innovative Carberry ideas, compared with other provincial events, will be to provide access to the hospitality area via a $20 “party pass”.

That idea was one of many which grew from the imaginations of the Carberry volunteer corps and Van Kommer is quick to credit his executive committee and the other lead volunteers for their energy and ideas. The Executive group includes Kelly Hofer (President of the Ladies Curling Club), Warren Birch (President of the Men’s Curling Club) Trevor Calvert (Past-President of the Men’s Curling Club).

Carberry was originally scheduled to host a dual Manitoba Juniors and Manitoba Seniors Championship event in early 2021 but it, of course, was cancelled due to the pandemic. When CurlManitoba needed a suitable location for the Scotties, Carberry accepted the challenge.

As one of the original seven curling clubs which formed the Manitoba Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (now CurlManitoba), Carberry is proud to join the list of communities which has hosted one of Manitoba’s major arena curling events.

However, Van Kommer and his group have not given up on the idea of that dual Juniors-Seniors championship event wrapped around their community bonspiel.

“You have to have something to look forward to,” he concludes with a smile.